Agriculture plays a vital role in maintaining the countryside. It is a provider of employment and puts food on the table for millions of people. But the sector is hampered by having one of the highest death and injury rates of any other industry in the UK.
In the past 10 years, one person a week, on average, has been killed or seriously injured as a result of agricultural work. Other sectors are seeing a decrease, but in agriculture, the figures are steady. This is mostly due to isolated working conditions, large powerful machinery, and the ageing workforce.
There are four main risks for farmers. The Health & Safety Executive reports that, in the past five years, 28% of fatalities have been caused by vehicles such as telescopic handlers, tractors, trailers, farm equipment or allterrain vehicles, and 10% by contact with powered machinery such as seed drills, power take-offs (PTOs) and balers. Some 16% of fatalities were killed by cattle and 15% by a fall from height.
With long hours, large machinery and the rush to get the harvest complete, it’s easy to be complacent, but farm safety should not be overlooked
Agricultural trailers are legally required to be roadworthy, well maintained and in good working order, with records held by the owner. Rarely used spare trailers also need checking, and always turn off PTOs before checking for jams or malfunctions.
These actions could save lives. If you’re working at height, have your safety equipment checked every six months and ensure you are using the correct kit for the job. Did you know that ladders have a safety requirement? Work in pairs, and don’t be that person who still goes up in the grain bucket.
In the past five years - a statistical overview
28% of fatalities have been caused by vehicles
10% were killed by contact with powered machinery
16% were killed by cattle
15% lost their lives falling from height
We also hear of stories of livestock accidents caused by poor cattle handling equipment or complacency around large animals. The farm is a workplace, and it is illegal for children under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural selfpropelled machines (such as tractors) and certain other farm machinery.
Adhering to the law will ensure children and grandchildren are not put at risk. It is our responsibility to ensure that we and our staff are thoroughly informed of the risks involved in farming.
We must mitigate the risks throughout every season, carry out appropriate and regular checks of machinery, put in place suitable safety equipment and ensure staff are fully trained. We must take care of our own physical and mental health, and, most importantly, we must come home safe.